Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Charge of Heresy

This article examines the teaching concerning the sons of the kingdom. Also, it examines those who preach the message of the kingdom and how both message and messenger are sometimes lightly esteemed and mistakenly dismissed as heresy or a departure from scripture.

Jesus was accused of speaking blasphemy. Unlike heresy, which involves a thought out, albeit erroneous, message blasphemy may occur when one blurts out without thinking or necessarily believing what they have blurted out. Preaching the kingdom of heaven and the will of the Father was what consumed Jesus. He was forever about the Father's business. When he was pressed at his mock trial to answer the questions he replied that he had spoken his message openly to the world for all to hear. There was no need for him to answer so as to defend himself.

Heresy, or the mere charge of heresy, has resulted in the cost of lives over the centuries. In modern times  the charge may not involve death, but the result is that a person's name and reputation is ruined. The charge may not have been true necessarily, but that was not important for the accusers. Truly, often those who are quick to make the charge of heresy are often as ignorant as those who actively engage in teaching heresy.

The charge of heresy is typically made by people other than the one who holds or teaches the view that a significant departure from the accepted authority, for example, of scripture. Is this necessarily a hard steadfast rule? While it may be true this it does not necessarily follow that those who make the charge of heresy understand either the charge or the authority of scripture.

Jesus was charged with committing blasphemy and he was crucified because of it after a farce of a trial with a lineup of false accusers. Blasphemy is defined as irreverence towards God. Heresy involves a wrong belief which does not agree or align with the authority of scripture. As such, blasphemy suggests something which an individual might blurt out. It is not necessarily something which the individual believes or thought about before he blurted it out. Clearly, in the case of Jesus he did not blurt out without thinking or believing and being fully convicted of his task as Savior as the Son of God.

those who make their living from their work
Perhaps we can look at a seemingly lower grade example other than what was cast against Jesus of what can and ought to be taken as heresy. In fact, if we are to be consistent with our claims concerning the scriptures it ought to be taken as heresy. Specifically, the first example which I would like to pose involves those who preach and make their living through the preaching of the gospel. Who better than Jesus and the apostle Paul to take on the charge of heresy and not only deflect it, but enlighten us concerning their authority and the authority of scripture. One can reject enlightenment, but the net result is that it will be expose who and what needs to be exposed before the congregation of the people of God.

What does allowing the ox to feed freely have to do with preachers receiving their livelihood through their preaching of the gospel? The quick answer is nothing. The pop additon to that is that one needs to examine and take things in context. This, context, is the talisman along with its other charms of book, chapter and verse. Together, these make a pleasing sound in the ears of those who tout them. In fact, this is the pocket-size response with which many saints run to denounce as a false practice (so as not to say blasphemy or heresy) preachers receiving their livelihood through the gospel. The idea of applying the scripture concerning ox feeding freely is cause for  laughter and cynicism for disciples. Clearly, the charges and accusations of false teaching are neither laughable nor should they be lightly made.

Moses not only commanded Israel concerning people, but also concerning animals. The laborer was to receive his wages from the one who hired him promptly before the sun went down. The ox was not to be muzzled while threshing. It was common for laborers to work the wheat harvest. It was common for the ox to thresh wheat grain. But how does the scripture about a laborer harvesting wheat speak to or have anything to do with uninvited itinerant preachers as laborers?

Yet, Jesus made the connection and application of scripture to the disciples when he sent them out to preach and commanded them to stay and eat and drink in the home that received them. Furthermore, the apostle Paul in I Timothy related the scripture concerning the ox who threshes that it was to be allowed to feed freely from the grain which it was threshing together with the passage concerning the laborer and his wages. Additionally, Paul not only extended it to preachers, but to elders whom he described as being worthy of double honor. The lessons applied by Jesus and Paul concerning animals and people are true. It involves those who make a living from their work. It was heresy neither by Jesus nor Paul. Yes, their interpretation and application of the scriptures as the written word of God flies in the face of the quaint and popular notions of context and book, chapter and verse.

the sons of the kingdom
Here is second subject for which charges of heresy are hastily cast among the saints. In the spirit of pop culture the charge is known as anti-semitic. I prefer not to make use of the popular labels as the use of these labels give the false impression of understanding. The subject involves Israel and the saints in Christ.

Jesus encountered no small resistance to his message concerning the kingdom of heaven. The sons of the kingdom, as Jesus referred to them, would be cast out. Did Jesus speak heresy when he prophesied to the Jews about them being cast out? Did Paul speak heresy when he stated that they are not all Israel who descended from Israel? Yet, this is the hasty and false accusation made as much by non-Christians as by the saints in Christ when they hear this distinction spoken or read from the scriptures.

However, neither Jesus, Paul nor the saints in Christ conjured up this teaching. It was the message of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea and Jeremiah. It was a message which did not go over well with the Jews and for which the prophets paid for with their lives. It was a message which distinguished between the unfaithful children of Israel and the faithful remnant, as King Hezekiah and the prophets referred to them. Today, the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, King Hezekiah, Jesus and Paul would be tagged as anti-semitic, if not by their own kinsmen in the flesh, then certainly by the saints in Christ.

heresy and heretics
There were four notable incidents during the time of Moses which are for our learning. None of them are called heresy, but the response from God in each instance is prompt and immediate. The response from God does not necessarily follow that we understand or learn the intended lessons from those incidents. The four instances involve Miriam and Aaron, Korah, Nadab and Abihu and lastly, Moses. I leave it to the reader to read and examine the passages for your understanding and judge if this is not so.

God was quick to punish Miriam by striking her with leprosy (Numbers 12) following her collusion together with Aaron against Moses. She spoke out in defiance against God’s servant, Moses. The rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16) followed not long after Miriam. Korah and his followers also rose up and defied Moses as the man whom God commanded as the leader of Israel. Korah and his companions faced a swift and immediate consequences for their rebellion and perished. Nadab and Abihu as sons of Aaron were priests who ministered before the congregation of the Lord. Their fate was immediate when they were consumed by fire from heaven for brazenly showing their disregard for the commandment of God. (Leviticus 10)

Lastly, Moses whom God had called to lead Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and to lead them into the promised land failed to do so. Moses, God was quick to judge, rebelled against God when Moses failed to honor God in the incident of the waters of Meribah. (Exodus 17 & Numbers 20) The problem, as is too often heard from the pulpit and reiterated in the pews, was not that Moses struck the rock. The two passages indicate that God instructed Moses to strike the rock, but also to speak to the rock. It is Moses’s own commentary on this incident in Deuteronomy 8:15 that enlightens us. Moses was keen to note that it was God, not Moses and Aaron, who brought water out of the rock.

What do these four incidents have in common? It is that they all involve individuals speaking out against those whom God has called. It also involves those whom God has called and when they fail to honor him before the congregation of his people. These incidents all reveal a swift and immediate response from God. None of these individuals lived long afterwards to continue with their insolence and rebellion. Moses did recant and tract his rebellious words (Deuteronomy 1:37) and made it clear to Israel that it was because of his rebellion that God denied him the honor and privilege of leading Israel into the land of Canaan. Do not run wild with a misunderstanding of your own. There is nothing suggested, implied or stated concerning the eternity of these individuals and  any speculation is pointless to edify the saints in Christ. Clearly, the regard of Jesus towards Moses and the work which Moses did in Israel including the appearance of Moses on the mount of transfiguration attest to a favorable standing with God.

The priests, prophets of old and preachers were individuals called and commanded by God to go before the congregation of his people with his word. These individuals, particularly priests under the law of Moses and preachers of the gospel were to be cared and are to be cared for by those to whom they feed the word of God, that is, they made their living through the preaching of the gospel. This is not only not a heresy, but it is a teaching established by Jesus and his servant the apostle Paul in accordance with the commandment of the word of God.

There is no more a replacement or abandonment of Israel by God than by Paul or the saints in Christ. The call of God for Israel has ALWAYS been to be faithful. The emphasis is on faithful as in faith, not the flesh. As such, those ALL who know not God, but who call upon the name of the Lord join in with Israel, the faithful who believe God. As accusations of heresy go do not be hasty and be mindful of the origin of this message and its messengers concerning Israel, who spoke this message and what was the response to their message by those to whom they declared it. Remember also the prompt and immediate response of God to heresy and blasphemy even when the scripture does not call such in the immediate instance which it records for our learning.

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